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Three members of 2001 PHI SEABA team recall home domination

Current Star coach Chito Victolero, right, was once part of the 2001 Philippine team that ruled the SEABA Championship at home. (file photo)

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--It has been a long time already since the Philippines last hosted the SEABA Men's Championship.

A group of MBA stars stomped its dominance in the 2001 edition that took place in its entirety at the fabled Rizal Memorial Coliseum through blowout wins with the "closest" being a 17-point advantage against Thailand in the final.

Three of the said Philippine team's key players shared to Dugout Philippines what their experience was like.

"Maganda ang chemistry namin noon with John Ferriols, Romel Adducul, Eddie Laure, Ruben Dela Rosa, Peter Martin, [Chris] Calaguio, and Omanzie Rodriguez. We're very proud na nakuha namin yung gold. Marami kaming pinagdaanan na challenges bago namin makuha yung gold," said former Manila and San Juan guard Chito Victolero.

"It was fun. Sobrang saya noong experience," added Martin, who was teammates with Victolero at the Metrostars side.

"Noong naglaro kami, talagang walang kapaguran kasi hometown mo tapos gusto mong ibigay yung laro mo talaga. Bigay-todo talaga yun," added former Batangas wing Laure, who would become teammates with Martin when the Manila core was absorbed by the Lipa-based franchise in 2001.

However, Martin is aware that the Southeast Asian basketball scene has evolved drastically in the last 16 years especially with the ABL playing a key role to that.

"I believe SEABA is improving. Thailand and Singapore have been getting naturalized players. This [year's hosting] is the hardest among the three emotionally, mentally, and physically," he said.

On the other hand, Laure, who is father to UST volleyball star EJ, believes the toughest opponent of the current national team incarnation, Gilas Pilipinas, lies within.

"Sa akin, masisilat lang sila kung sarili nila ang makakatalo sa kanila. Pag nag-relax sila at di sila naglaro nang maayos, yun ang nakakatakot doon kasi kapag sinabi mo na homecourt ka, medyo parang showtime [laro mo usually]," the eventual MVP of the MBA season that immediately ensued particularly said.

Victolero, the current head coach of Star, mirrored what Laure quipped, saying, "Pag nag-overconfident tayo, yun ang mahirap."

Meanwhile, Victolero and Laure gave pointers to Gilas.

"Ang importante lang dyan, mag-prepare tayo nang maayos and i-respect natin kung sino ang kalaban natin," said Victolero.

"As long as maglaro sila as a team, mahirap silang talunin," continued Laure.

He also commended the Gilas program, saying, "Maganda ang programa nila, kasi yung mga players, nagsasama-sama nang matagal unlike yung amin."

The 2001 team, which also had Junel Mendiola, Homer Se, Stephen Padilla, Jomar Tierra, Vince Hizon, and Egay Echavez and was coached by Boycie Zamar, who is now part of the Beermen's coaching staff as well, was only formed two months before the SEABA tourney.

In the end, the former Nationals are happy that the Philippines will once again host the SEABA tourney on May 12-18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

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"It's good to be here," Martin simply said.

"Abangan natin yun. Ito yung prestigious kasi kung sino yung manalo, yun ang magre-represent ng SEABA sa FIBA Asia [Cup]. Kailangan lang natin suportahan yung Gilas," Victolero concluded.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno